Source: Evening News, Norwich, UK

Pub date: Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Subj: I have no respect for the pro-cannabis argument

Author: Naomi Canton

Web:  http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk

Contact: EveningNewsLetters@archant.co.uk

Cited: Legalise Cannabis Alliance  http://www.lca-uk.org/

         Norwich Green Party http://www.norwichgreenparty.org/

         Clarles Clarke http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page1397.asp


Home Secretary Charles Clarke today defended his decision to snub a national pro-cannabis conference in Norwich - because he had "no respect" for the organisation behind it.


The Legalise Cannabis Alliance, which has its head office in Norwich, invited the Norwich South MP to next month's conference at the University of East Anglia.


But the alliance said Mr Clarke had not replied to the invitation and the Labour MP today revealed he was not prepared to meet the pro-cannabis campaigners - but would go head to head with them in this May's elections.


He said: "I have a very full schedule and I could not make that particular event. I am pretty sure I have replied.


"I would not be prepared to meet them anyway as I don't respect their argument in any way.


"I am expecting them to run a candidate against me at the next election and we can discuss it at the Hustings then.


"The Government has done the right thing to reclassify cannabis."


In 1997 Mr Clarke revealed he had smoked cannabis and in 2001 he told TV's Question Time that he tried the drug twice while on holiday in America.


The Legalise Cannabis Alliance's sixth annual national conference will take place at the Elizabeth Fry Buildings at the UEA on February 19.


It's national co-ordinator Alun Buffry said: "We invited Mr Clarke at the beginning of the year by email and post and we have heard nothing.


"I am pretty angry that our elected MP won't come and talk to his constituency.


"We thought that seeing as he was the new Home Secretary and Norwich South MP and the university is in his constituency we would give him the opportunity to speak to us, the general public and students."


He said the Alliance wanted Mr Clarke to explain and justify the Government stance on cannabis and reveal its five to ten year strategy for the drug, which was reclassified last year to Class C.


"Mr Clarke does not surprise me because this Government cannot justify its position," Mr Buffry said.


"The Government position is based on scare-mongering and the Government is too afraid to take a positive step. Cannabis is one of the safest drugs in the world."


He said the Government did not have scientific evidence to justify including cannabis in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.


"I can not recall this Government ever putting anyone in a situation where they will answer questions," he said.


"We believe that the act of using cannabis should be an individual choice," Mr Buffry said.


The Legalise Cannabis Alliance was set up in to 1999 in Norwich and Mr Buffry confirmed it is planning on putting a candidate forward to fight Mr Clarke for his Norwich South seat.


But Norwich Green party councillor Adrian Ramsay said he supported the legalisation of cannabis.


"We want it to be made legal. Whilst cannabis is illegal it's very difficult to control what's in it and we believe it would be much safer if it was under the control of the sate, legalised and it could then be taxed and money put into public services.


"We are also in favour of pubic education of all these types of drugs - the illegal and legal ones and making the public aware of the health implications of taking them."


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